MURRAY THE LION: It’s said that Djokovic pounces like a leopard and that Jimmy Connors always told himself to get his tiger juices going. Now, an African lion cub – born a few miles from Andy Murray‘s home, the day before the Scot won Wimbledon – has been named Murray.
ANDY MURRAY, GEORGE CARLIN, THE MEANING OF LIFE AND ALL THAT STUFF: When Andy Murray came out on court with his usual array of bags and things, broadcaster Gigi Salmon noted, “It looks like he’s going off for a weekend outing with all the stuff he’s brought.” Her comment brought to mind comic George Carlin‘s routine on stuff: “If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house…The whole meaning of life is finding a place for your stuff. All your house is is a pile of stuff with a cover on it…[It’s just] a place to keep your stuff in when you go out to get some more stuff.”
THERE’S ALWAYS A FIRST TIME: All four of golf’s 2016 majors had first-time winners. If there were four first-time winners in tennis this they would be, based on the rankings, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Willie Tsonga.
THE BIG FOUR BY THE NUMBERS: In the race for most Grand Slams, Federer has 17 titles to Nadal‘s 14, Djokovic‘s 12 and Murray‘s 3. With 30, Djokovic has the most Masters titles – Nadal has 28 and Federer has 24. Federer also has won the most ATP World Tour Finals, with 6 to Djokovic’s 5. Nadal and Murray have none. Djokovic and Federer are tied with 47 big titles while Nadal has 42. Djokovic has the best ratio of big tournaments played-to-won, 3.13 to 1, followed by Nadal at 3.52 to 1 and Fed at 4.36 to 1.
LOVE 35: Roger Federer is now 35. According to tennisabstract.com, of the 20 other men’s pros who’ve won three or more open era Slams, only eight played to age 35 or older, and Ken Rosewall is the only one to have won a post-35 major.
TOO YOUNG FOR A MUSEUM? Five years ago, Rafa Nadal, who’s now 30, wrote an autobiography. Now in Mallorca there’s a new Nadal museum. Argentine Guillermo Vilas also has a museum.
THE CEO OF RAONIC TENNIS: A reporter confronted Milos Raonic, bravely reminding the Canadian that he had three coaches and that can be a lot of voices for a chef to sort out. Raonic replied, don’t worry, “I am the CEO of Milos Raonic tennis.”
OLY NOTES: Tennis’ Olympic flag bearers were a beaming Rafa Nadal, proud Andy Murray, Dane Caroline Wozniacki and Luxemburg’s Gilles Muller…At the Sochi Olympics, cool, elegant Russian Maria Sharapova ran the Olympic torch into the stadium. Warm, soulful Guga Kuerten did it in Rio…Norman Chad wondered whether NBC would become the “first network to air more than 60 minutes of commercials in a single hour”…Christopher Clarey tweeted, “7.4 billion people on the planet. 11,000 athletes in Rio. That’s 0.00015% of the total. Remarkable.”
WORST TIP OF THE YEAR: Larry Dodge said that the late Whitney Reed used to tell him, “Lob short and rush the net. It will improve your reflexes.”
MORNING IN AMERICA: Coach Nick Bollettieri said American men’s tennis “now has the best crop of youngsters that we’ve had in 12 years.” John Isner asserted we’ve “sort of turned a corner…We have a lot of good young talent. I think we’re rising currently.” Andy Roddick said that America’s “farm system is as strong as any place globally, right now. We have a pack of guys that have a healthy jealousy…The narrative will be much different in 5 to 10 years.”
CAMPUS REPORT: The USTA’s stunning national Campus in Lake Nona, FL, which will open in January, is generating buzz. Observers from around the globe are talking about the 65-acre expansive size, and the scope of the cutting-edge place that hopes to change how tennis is delivered and how Yankee champions are crafted.
ANNIVERSARY FARE: This September the US Open will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jimmy Connors‘ memorable 1991 run and ten years since Andre Agassi‘s retirement speech that showed us just how much he’d grown. “The scoreboard said I lost today,” Agassi told the crowd. “But what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and also in life. I found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed..And I’ve found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams.” This year’s Open final will be on the 15th Anniversary of 9/11.
NOPE, SIMONA: Chris Evert said, “If there’s one thing about Simona Halep…It’s that she starts panicking…and it stops her thinking…[She thinks] it’s the racket, it’s the coach – nope, [Simona], it’s you.” Still, the Romanian won the Rogers Cup.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNESTS: Celebrated coach Larry Stefanki, who specializes in working with labor-intensive players like John McEnroe, Marcelo Rios and Andy Roddick, has been working with Ernests Gulbis. BTW: The most curious Arthur Ashe Kids Day warning we’ve ever seen came last year when Courtney Nguyen tweeted, “It’s Kids’ Day. Walked in as stadium announcer announced Gulbis would be practicing later this afternoon. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.”
POLICE MAGNETS: No other tennis player attracts police like Bernie Tomic, who time and again has had testy run-ins with authorities in Australia and then was almost arrested in Miami earlier this year. Then, in July, in Washington, local police forced him off a practice court…In certain security zones near the Republican Convention in Cleveland, it was okay to carry guns, but not tennis balls…Mild-mannered James Blake also attracts police. During the 2015 US Open he was misidentified by an officer who tackled him to the ground. Nearly a year later, the African-American told IT, “It’s sad, that every morning I wake up to a different story of police brutality or police deaths. Far too many guns are accessible…[and] that makes the police edgy, and when the police are edgy…[and when] they are not trained enough, their reactions may not be the best. Sometimes there is ill will, but the majority of cops are doing what they think is best and are bound by their oath to protect and serve…[but] there is a small minority that are not. They abuse their power and they need to be held accountable.”
A SINGULAR COMMENTARY ON A PAIRE: When reflecting on France’s often inconsistent Benoit Paire, Courtney Nguyen said, “You never know which Paire you are going to get – the delicious Bartlett one or that brown one which has been sitting over there on the shelf.”
YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS: Hollywood artiste Shia LaBeouf is set to play John McEnroe in the upcoming film “Borg/McEnroe,” with Stellan Skarsgaard cast as Borg’s coach, Lennart Bergelin. “There is something really romantic [about the Borg/McEnroe rivalry],” said LaBeouf, adding, “You don’t often see masculine love portrayed honestly.”
USPTA TO GATHER: This fall, many in tennis will journey to Indian Wells’ Hyatt Regency for the September 25-29 USPTA World Conference. The annual tennis fest includes everything from poolside receptions to a (“Hey, check out this new widget”) buying show, and a feisty tennis tournament, as well as seminars on compelling issues. This year’s conference honors teaching pro extraordinaire Peter Burwash and features talks on community tennis and player development from the USTA’s Kurt Kamperman and Martin Blackman. There will also be a panel discussion featuring Lindsay Davenport and Pam Shriver. For info go to uspta.com.